Let the Nigerian Army temper justice with mercy. Cupid, not the love struck duo, is to blame.
Trust Nigerians, they have been latching on to the news of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member and the female soldier, Private Akinlabi Sofiyat, that are entangled by Cupid since their love tango went viral some days ago. Such stories of the heart will always continue to make the rounds. For me, though, in addition to this, they also provide an escape from the usual bad news emanating from our governments. When last have we heard cheering news from government? When?
That reminds me of the ‘Person of the Year’ story that this paper published last Sunday. When we settled for NOBODY as our person of the year, with the bandit as the first runner-up, the foot soldier, etc, we knew what we were doing. This is a country where leaders brandish all manner of awards. Yet, see the way we are. The truth is that most awards in the country have been bastardised, with the trophies usually going to the highest bidder. That is why birds now cry like rats and rats cry like birds. That is why Nigeria is jaga jaga. I can now understand why Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was angry when a musician sang Nigeria jaga jaga in his time as president. This is the Nigeria jaga jaga proper. Sorry, the thing is getting on my nerves again.
The truth is; I always like to take advantage of stories like the one in question whenever they break, if only to have a break from the usual stories of bad governance that have been our lot “from time immemorial”, as the Late O. Lawal used to say in his Economics textbooks.
There has been no respite since the video of the male NYSC member who proposed to the female soldier at the Yikpata Orientation Camp of the NYSC in Kwara State went viral about two weeks ago. The corps member in the video was on his knees as he inserted the ring into the finger of the female soldier amid cheers from fellow corps members. The proposal happened at the Passing Out Parade of Batch B, Stream 2 of the 2021 Corps Members. A report was quoted saying that “In another clip, the pair are seen sharing lovey-dovey moments. The corps member is seen wearing the lady’s military cap as she stands directly behind him.
“They thereafter share a kiss to the delight of other corps members filming the incident.” Consequently, the Nigerian Army arrested the female soldier, for accepting the love proposal in uniform. The NYSC boss Brig-Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, said the corps encourages youth corps members to get married but they’ve never had to deal with a case involving a soldier and a corps member. He added that in this case, the army has its own rules which must also be respected.
Army spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, however reacted swiftly to the incident. He said it was unheard of for a trainer (in this case the female soldier) to fall in love with a trainee (corps member). Describing the act as fraternisation in military terms, he further said it was an act of gross misconduct for a personnel to engage in romance while in uniform.
“The Nigerian Army has Codes of conduct, Rules and regulations guiding our personnel whenever and wherever they are deployed for duty.
“We have ethics, customs and traditions, which have the force of law and are enforceable as such. These are meant to guide service personnel and better position them to efficiently execute the critical, onerous and consistently hazardous profession of the arms”, Nwachukwu said, among other things.
I agree with both the military spokesman and the NYSC boss that the military has its own tradition which cannot be ignored without consequence. But then this is a matter of love; a matter of the heart. I disagree that this is a novel experience in the Nigerian Army. Even if it is, there is always a first time. A matter of the heart cannot be decreed into, or out of existence. Moreover, I do not share the sentiment by the army spokesman that people would have seen the issue as sexual harassment if a male soldier was the one proposing to a female còrps member. Are we saying we cannot differentiate between sexual harassment and when two adults are in love?
As King Sunny Ade sang in his duet with Onyeka Onwenu, ‘this thing they call love, e get as e be o …’ When it strikes you, it is like thunderbolt. And this can be anywhere; in the neighbourhood, at home, in worship centres, at eateries, malls or where have you. Love is no respecter of person or place. Otherwise, a whole American president, Bill Clinton, would not have noticed a mere intern in the White House, Monica Lewinsky, not to talk of nursing the ambition of an inappropriate relationship with her, and not to talk of actualising that inappropriate relationship, (whatever that meant)! Love lifts you off your feet and sometimes momentarily sends your thinking faculty on a forced break. This is especially so at their respective ages. I don’t want to believe that that encounter was the first between the lovestruck soldier and the corps member. Certainly some undercurrent activities must have been going on between them, which only got ‘consummated’ in the public about two weeks ago. That, apparently, was their error. Doing in public what they should have been doing privately. But again, that is the power of love. If they had confined their activities to some secret places, they might have been able to continue with their love life unmolested.